Top 4 Sources of Motivation For Managing Depression


motivationWhat motivates you when managing depression? Recently Everyday Health asked that question to readers since 58 percent of readers said they wish for motivation every morning to manage their illness. More specifically, 50 percent wanted strength; 49 percent wanted happiness; and 41 percent wanted peace of mind. Here are the results: the top four sources of motivation for managing depression


Although dropping out of a job seems like the right thing to do when you’re depressed, psychiatrists like J. Raymond DePaulo Jr., M.D., of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, have argued that doing so usually worsens your mood. Any form of productivity—faking it through a work day, sitting through a committee meeting, weeding, or cleaning the house—provides a sense of accomplishment and mastery of skills that are going to boost your mood. Writes DePaulo in his book, “Understanding Depression”:

Despite the problems people with depression face on the job, they’re usually still better off going to work if they can. The ability to maintain some day-to-day functioning, especially outside the home, is helpful. For one thing, it gives them a reason to get out of bed in the morning, one of the hardest things to do when depressed. Work also provides a good distraction from the illness for most patients. And completing even simple tasks means that the patient accomplished something that others value.

When surveyed, 79 percent of Everyday Health readers said that they feel motivated when accomplishing a task.

Leisure Time

According to research published in the “Journal of Leisure Research,” chronic health problems can be managed to some extent by turning to leisure activities for a source of distraction, solace, and a sense of control. According to the authors, “research suggests that depression, like chronic conditions, is amendable to the positive influence of leisure.” Leisure can protect feelings of well-being, so that when people are in stressful conditions the negative impact is reduced. Leisure can also distract a person from distressing thoughts, even if it’s watching an episode of “The Real Housewives of New Jersey,” a form of escape or break from the negative ruminations. A 2008 study with 48 Australian women with depression showed that leisure generated hope that there is life beyond depression, transformed self-identities, and empowered persons to set new boundaries for themselves and others.

Sixty-two percent of Everyday Health readers feel stronger when doing an enjoyable activity.

Acts of Kindness

Gandhi said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” That’s certainly true if you review research on the health benefits of volunteering. According to a study published in the “The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences,” volunteers report greater life satisfaction and better physical health than do non-volunteers. Volunteering also relieves both physical and mental distress. Research published in “Pain Management Nurses” showed that persons suffering from chronic pain experienced declines in their pain intensity and decreased levels of disability and depression when they began to serve as peer volunteers for others also suffering from chronic pain.

Fifty-three percent of Everyday Health readers find that helping others improves their outlook.

Personal Connection

We are social creatures and are happiest when we are in relationship. One of the clearest findings among happiness research is that we need each other in order to thrive and be happy, that loving relationships are crucial to our well-being. Relationships create a space of safety where we can learn and explore. Belonging to a group or a community gives people a sense of identity. Studies indicate that social involvement can promote health, contribute toward faster recovery from trauma and illness, and lower risk of stress-related health problems and mental illness. A simple hug can flood our bodies with oxytocin that lowers cortisol levels and reduces stress. According to research at the University of North Carolina, women who get more hugs from their partners have higher levels of oxytocin and lower blood pressure and heart rates. Holding hands is also calming, as it reduces stress-related activity in the hypothalamus part of the brain that regulates emotions.

Twenty-five percent of Everyday Health readers find strength through other people.

Originally published on Sanity Break at Everyday Health.

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Therese Borchard
I am a writer and chaplain trying to live a simple life in Annapolis, Maryland.

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